WestLift: A Family Affair
When a father and son – each forklift service technicians – found themselves out of work following the Great Recession of 2008, they bought two used vans and decided to start a mobile forklift repair business in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Dan West and his son Shayne shared almost 40 years of forklift service experience between them, and slowly built out a two-person business that operated out of the family kitchen into a family empire that’s grown more than anyone in the West family could have imagined.
Today, WestLift employs 16 people – half of them family – and now sells and rents forklifts alongside the legacy service side of the business. They’ve grown from the family kitchen to small shops to their present 18,000-foot shop and showroom while anticipating the opening of a second location. The current success of the business is thanks to the priorities established during its humble beginnings – an ability to overcome unexpected challenges, a focus on superior service, and a reliance on family.
Matthew West, the oldest of Shayne’s six children, grew up watching his family build the business, so it was only natural for him to start working for WestLift as a technician while his father transitioned into a management role. However, Matthew quickly realized he didn’t quite have the knack for running a service department. At the same time, the company’s growth plateaued, and it was clear something wasn’t working. That’s when Shayne came to Matthew and suggested they switch roles – Shayne could return to his roots and run the service side of the business while Matthew could build out the customer base and envision new ways for WestLift to grow.
“Not being in charge of service gave me the ability to see the bigger picture of WestLift and allowed us to grow, and it also allowed Shayne to get back into his realm of where he’s comfortable,” Matthew said. “That’s when everything took off, and the customers started coming in, money came in, we got new employees and new equipment, and it snowballed to where we sit back and see how everything has come to fruition. This is out of control, but a fun ride.”
After father and son switched positions in 2018, Matthew took advantage of a new degree offered by Liberty University that specialized in dealership management. Although it wasn’t something he’d been seeking out, Matthew said the classes fit perfectly in line with what he was trying to achieve at WestLift – how to manage a service department, financing and leasing, insurance and business operations. He earned the degree in 2021 and was able to implement what he learned at the family company.
Matthew saw there was a market for new forklifts and brought on Heli Forklifts due to their quality and warranty, and WestLift is now one of the top Heli dealers in the country. He also attended MHEDA’s Rental & Used Equipment Management Conference, which he said was a turning point for WestLift and helped the company reshape its business model. In 2019, when they established the program, rentals brought in $19,000. In 2021, that number grew to $323,000.
WestLift grew from six employees in February 2020 to 16 employees today and was able to grow their customer base throughout the pandemic. The company is still primarily service-based, but the rental and sales side has enabled WestLift to grow – they are opening another location near Wilmington, North Carolina, to better manage their service coverage area.
Matthew attributes the company’s success to embracing innovative sales practices while maintaining the family-oriented, service-based approach WestLift was founded on. Case in point – Dan, Matthew’s 79-year-old grandfather, still takes his service van out every day as a road technician.
To learn more about WestLift, please go to westliftllc.com.